- Kellen time: Fans hope the Browns can win fast with Winslow.
It's been a running joke among Christian Davenport's buddies: As soon as Tim Couch came to town in 1999 to quarterback the Cleveland Browns, the ribbing started. "Someone got drunk one night and started calling us 'cushion cousins,'" sighs Davenport, a 34-year-old restaurant cook from Westlake. "Davenport. Couch. Get it?"
But after posting a dismal 5-11 record and taking up residence in the basement of the AFC North last season, the Browns put Couch on the curb, brought in new QB Jeff Garcia, and drafted tight end Kellen Winslow. "For all the hype they're giving him, he'd better produce," says Davenport, as he gets fired up on another Red Bull and vodka at McCarthy's Ale House in Lakewood. "With that whole Couch thing and showing him the door a few months ago, we need a morale boost."
Enter the cheerleaders from the Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau. In March, the agency cooked up the Brown & Orange Weekend, a two-day pigskin pig-out for members of the 261 Browns Backers Worldwide fan clubs and the Dawg disciples who want to join them. It starts on Friday afternoon with a Loud & Proud Pep Rally in the "Barking Lot" and North Patio of Cleveland Browns Stadium. There, fans will binge on barbecued ribs, bratwurst, and hot dogs while competing in several competitions for Best Dressed Fan, Dog-Bone Cookie-Eating Challenge, and the Biggest, Baddest Barking Contest. It's all about being "the most creative, the loudest, the most energetic, the most robust, the most Browns fan," says Joe Zion, the bureau's executive vice president.
After that title is bestowed, everyone will file into the stadium for the 8 p.m. kickoff of the team's preseason matchup against the Chicago Bears, followed by postgame fireworks. Win or lose, the celebrating carries into Saturday, when fans can rub elbows in the stadium's Legends Club with Browns rookies, including Winslow, back-up quarterback Luke McCown, and running back Adimchinobe Echemandu. "There's a season about to be launched," says Zion. "There's a new quarterback. There's a new first-round draft choice. And there are 38,000 rabid Cleveland Browns Backers around the world."
Joining the fun, however, requires some piggy-bank busting: A $76.50 package includes a ticket to the game, as well as to the pep rally and the rookie meet-and-greet. For an extra 20 bucks, you can score all-day passes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Science Center, and the Taste of Cleveland at Tower City Amphitheater. The $143.50 package contains a ticket for an upgraded seat at the game. And $212.50 gets you a two-night stay at a downtown hotel.
"This is a building year [for the Browns]," says Zion. "You can't come out of the box and be a Kentucky Derby winner until you have a couple winning races behind you. But the good news is that we have a great start to something we hope becomes an annual activity. And I'll put it this way -- the Browns will be in the 'W' column."